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Start-up Industry Specific

How do I start an events company?

The special events industry has grown enormously in the past decade.





According to recent research conducted by Dr. Joe Goldblatt, spending for special events worldwide is $500 billion annually. Goldblatt is the founder of International Special Events Society (ISES), the founding director of the Event Management Program at George Washington University, and co-author of The International Dictionary of Event Management.

“Suffice it to say, the marketplace is large enough to support and sustain your endeavour,” says Goldblatt. “If you’re working in one special events area, there are many directions in which you can expand.

If you’re just entering the profession of special events, there’s a lucrative market awaiting you on many fronts.”

Related: Event Planning Sample Business Plan

According to Goldblatt’s research, profits in this industry continue to rise. Just a few years ago, Goldblatt says, the average profit margin for an event planning entrepreneur was around 15%.

What Is Event Planning?

This question actually breaks down into two questions: What kinds of events are we talking about? And, what is event planning?
First things first. Generally speaking, special events occur for the following purposes:

  • Celebrations (fairs, parades, weddings, reunions, birthdays, anniversaries)
  • Education (conferences, meetings, seminars)
  • Promotions (product launches, political rallies, fashion shows)
  • Commemorations (memorials, civic events)

This list isn’t an exhaustive one, but as the examples illustrate, special events may be business related, purely social or somewhere in between.

Related: Singles-Only Event Promoter

Planners of an event may handle any or all of the following tasks related to that event:

  • Conducting research
  • Creating an event design
  • Finding a site
  • Arranging for food, decor and entertainment
  • Planning transportation to and from the event
  • Sending invitations to attendees
  • Arranging any necessary accommodations for attendees
  • Coordinating the activities of event personnel
  • Supervising at the site
  • Conducting evaluations of the event

How many of these activities your business engages in will depend on the size and type of a particular event, which will, in turn, depend on the specialisation you choose.

Why Do People Hire Event Planners?

This question has a simple answer: Individuals often find they lack the expertise and time to plan events themselves. Independent planners can step in and give these special events the attention they deserve.

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Who Becomes An Event Planner?

Stephanie Moss of Stephanie Moss Solutions started out as an advertising and promotions manager for an IT company and became involved in the conferencing side of the business.

Related:  9 Answers You Need About Yourself Before Starting Your Own Business

She was drawn to the glitz and glamour of it all. In 1989, when she started her company, there were few event-focused agencies, and no one thought about booking their conferences through event managers.

Wedding planner Aleit Swanepoel took a circuitous route to the wedding industry, working in hospitality as a restaurant and conference centre manager at Oude Libertas, and then as the national functions and events manager for Distell, South Africa’s largest wine company.

This experience honed his organising skills. “I realised I was organising people’s weddings at the venues I worked at, free of charge really. In 2001 I must have coordinated in the region of 250 weddings,” he recalls. It was something he enjoyed and was exceptionally good at so starting his own business was a natural course to follow.

The Service Offering

What are the services that events planners offer their clients?

Here are the main tasks you’ll be completing as an event planner:
1. Research
The best way to reduce risk (whatever the kind) is to do your homework. For large events, research may mean making sure there’s a demand for the event by conducting surveys, interviews or focus group research. If you’re new to the event planning industry, research may instead mean finding out all you can about vendors and suppliers.

Research also may mean talking to other planners who have produced events similar to the one on which you’re working. Or you may find yourself reading up on issues of custom and etiquette, especially if you’re unfamiliar with a particular type of event.

Whatever kind of event you’re planning, research should include asking your client a lot of questions and writing down the answers. Interviewing a client may not be what you immediately think of as research.

Related: Event and Party Planner

However, asking too few questions, or not listening adequately to a client’s answers, can compromise the success of the event you plan.

2. Design
Your creativity comes most into play in the design phase of event planning, during which you sketch out the overall “feel” and “look” of the event.

This is the time to brainstorm, either by yourself or with your employees. It’s also the time to pull out and look through your idea file. (You do have one, don’t you? If not, read on and take notes.)

Don’t forget to consult your notebook for the client’s answers to the questions you asked in the research phase. These responses, especially the one regarding the event budget, will help you thoroughly check each idea for feasibility, preferably before suggesting it to the client.

3. Proposal
Once you’ve interviewed the client and done some preliminary brainstorming, you should have enough information to prepare a proposal.

Be aware that the production of a proposal is time-consuming and potentially expensive, especially if you include photographs or sketches. While it’s a common practice in the US, South African companies seldom charge a consultation fee.

Panaretos says there are too many events management companies chasing the business for them to start charging for a consultation.

“In many instances, you may be pitching to an existing client and charging a fee would really be inappropriate.”

You may run the risk of having your ideas poached but, he says, that is part and parcel of the events business.

4. Organisation
During this decision-intensive phase, you’ll rent the site, hire vendors and take care of more details than you might believe possible. You’ll be on the phone until your ear is numb.

But before you do any of this, make sure you have a contact person (either the client or someone acting on the client’s behalf) with whom you’ll discuss all major decisions.

Having a designated individual helps ensure that communication lines are kept open. Also, social events in particular sometimes suffer from the “too many cooks” syndrome.

Related: 4 Apps to Keep You On-Task and On-Time

Having one designated contact helps you avoid being caught in the middle of disagreements between event participants.

Generally speaking, the bigger the event, the more lead time that’s required to plan it. Major conventions are planned years in advance.

Although you may not be arranging events on such a grand scale, you do need to allow at least a few months for events like corporate picnics, reunions or large parties.

5. Coordination
After you’ve made the initial plans, turn your attention to each of the activities that form a part of the overall event. At this point, your goal is to ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength. Good communication skills are important.

Make sure all vendors have at least a general idea of the overall event schedule. Even more important, vendors should be clear about what’s expected of them, and when.

Vendor arrival times should appear in the contracts, but verify those times anyway. This is a “check and recheck” period. Make sure all your staff members know their roles.

6. Evaluation

The obvious, and in one sense the most important, test of an event’s success is customer satisfaction. The goal, of course, is to end up with a client who will sing your praises up and down the street, shouting it from rooftops.

This is the client who will hire you again, and who will provide that famous word-of-mouth advertising for you.

There are several other ways to evaluate the success of an event. You can hire an event planning consultant; have someone who hosts extremely successful parties observe your event; plan a roundtable post-event discussion with your employees; obtain feedback from other industry professionals working at the event, like the caterer or bartender; or survey guests at or after the event.

7. Pricing
The goal in pricing a service is to mark up your labour and material costs sufficiently to cover overhead expenses and generate an acceptable profit. First-time business owners often fail because they unknowingly priced their services too low.

8. Market segment served
Social events have a different fee structure than corporate events. In the social events industry, planners typically receive a fee for their services, plus a percentage of some or all vendor fees.

The two income streams produce enough revenue for a profit. In the corporate events industry, however, planners typically charge a fee for their services, plus a handling charge for each item they contract.

For example, a planner buys flowers from a florist, marks them up and charges that amount to the client. Another possibility is a flat fee, or “project fee,” often used when the event is large and the corporation wants to be given a “not to exceed” figure.

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How to become a certified event planner

Consider getting a diploma or certificate in event management. Another option is to choose a degree or diploma in marketing or public relations, both of which will give you a solid grounding to prepare you for a career in events.

  • Damelin offers a one-year Certificate in Conference, Exhibition and Event Management at campuses throughout the country.
  • Intec College has a one-year home-study Certificate in Events Coordination.
  • If you are interested in something more in-depth, consider the University of Johannesburg’s three-year National Diploma in Hospitality Management, which offers Event Management as an elective in year three.
  • One of the most exciting new courses available is the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s three-year National Diploma in Event Management.

You may also consider working to achieve certification. In June 2008 the South African Qualifications authority (SAQA) registered two professional designations for marketers: National Certificate – Chartered Marketing (Level 7), known as Chartered Marketer (SA), and National Certificate – Marketing Practice (Level 5), known as Marketing Practitioner (SA), allowing individuals who are assessed as competent against the outcomes specified in each designation to put CM (SA) or MP (SA) after their name.

Related: Three Habits That Underpin Entrepreneurial Success

They are both also recognised by the European Marketing Confederation (EMC), giving international recognition across Europe, with Australia to follow. Services SETA, as the lead professional body for marketers, has arranged the development of processes through which this professional status can be conferred on individuals who can provide evidence of competence.

Getting to know your Market

What’s the best way to market an events company?

Events companies are most likely to grow their profile through their networks. Some event planners spend thousands of rand on big ads in business magazines and wait for the calls to roll in. Dr. Jeff Goldblatt says this is a mistake. Goldblatt advises new entrepreneurs in this industry to “stay away from the mass market.”

While a listing in the Yellow Pages may help potential clients find you, spending large amounts of money targeting the general public is usually not effective.

MD of SA events company Idea Lab, Peter Panaretos agrees. “The best marketing and advertising channel for anyone in this industry is Biz-Community. It’s the most recognised and the most read.

Related: How Do You Hit The Right Target Market For Your Business?

However, events companies are most likely to grow their profile through their networks, via word-of-mouth, and as a result of the success of their last event. It’s that simple. When people know you, they trust you.”

Networking can help your business in two ways. If people have met you and know what services you offer, they may refer business to you or use your service themselves. Furthermore, networking with hotels, caterers and so on will give you a chance to meet some of the people whose services you may need as you plan events.

Although networking and word-of-mouth are the most common industry strategies for acquiring clients, traditional forms of advertising do have their uses. A distinctive card or brochure sent to a mailing list or to local businesses may attract new clients. A small ad in a local business magazine can help build name recognition. A website on the Internet may allow you to attract customers unresponsive to other forms of media.

Panaretos also advises BEE-accredited consultancies to visit the website of the Department of Trade and Industry. “The government is always putting out events to tender, and this can be an excellent source of business.”

Where to find clients for an event planning business

Broadly speaking, there are two markets for event planning services: corporate and social.

The Corporate Market

The term “corporate” includes not only companies but also charities and non-profit organisations. Charities and non-profit organisations host fundraisers, receptions and competitions, among other events, to expand their public support base and raise funds. Thousands of these events occur each year, and although the large ones require specialised event planning experience, you may find smaller local events to start out with.

Companies host trade shows, conferences, client and staff functions, product launches and meetings for board members or stockholders.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the global events industry is worth an estimated $743 billion annually, with an expected growth rate of 3.7% per annum between 2008 and 2017.

Exact statistics on what the South African events industry is worth are hard to come by, according to Kevin Kriedemann, editor of The Event. The most widely circulated claim is that the local industry is worth an estimated R20 billion.

However, the highest figure is from the Exhibition Association of Southern Africa, which claims that the exhibition industry alone generates R74.3 billion in direct expenditure. The lowest figure comes from the Department of Arts & Culture; its research shows that the industry turned over at least R5 billion during the period Jan 2004 to June 2005.

5 Ways To Market Your Business On A Limited Budget

A very common misconception amongst small business owners is that in order to make their business stand out from the competition, big bucks has to be splashed on advertising.

The Social Market

Social events include weddings, birthdays, anniversary parties, bar mitzvahs, Sweet 16 parties, children’s parties, reunions and so on. You may decide to handle all these events or just specialise in one or more of them.

The market for social events, especially birthdays and anniversaries, is expected to continue to increase over the next few years, as baby boomers mature. This group has children getting married, parents celebrating golden anniversaries, and their own silver wedding anniversaries to commemorate.

How much money will you need to start your event planning business? That will depend on the cost of living in the area your business serves and whether you work from home or rent office space. It will also depend, to a lesser degree, on your own taste and lifestyle choices.

Keep in mind that while working from home will keep your costs low, you can’t start any but the smallest of event planning business on a shoestring. Peter Panaretos, MD of Randburg-based events company Idea Lab says that whether you choose to work from home or to set up plush offices depends on the type of clients you are chasing.

“There are low barriers to entry in this business as you can literally run an events company from your bedroom,” he says. “Because we sell intellectual capital and time, our clients do not pay much attention to our premises.

What is more important for us is to have some form of working capital so that we do not need to secure deposits from clients.

Related: Small Business Start-up Guide

Waiting for a 50% upfront payment may cause you to lose a venue or a presenter, which can be very frustrating. Working capital definitely gives you some competitive advantage.”

Panaretos notes that his company leases seven storage facilities in which clients’ branding is kept. But there are other events management companies that outsource every aspect of the event and will therefore have no need for this type of space.

“If you want to control more aspects of your business and offer elements for which you can bill extra, you will obviously provide more of these services in-house. At Idea Lab, for example, we offer advertising and design services as well as pure event management.”

Few, if any, event planners have 9-to-5 jobs. By its very nature, event planning tends to involve evenings, weekends, holidays and sometimes even specific seasons.

How much time you must commit to working will depend, once again, on the specialisation you choose. As a general rule, social events involve more weekends and holidays than corporate events do. Some areas of the country and some types of events have “on” and “off” seasons.

However, no matter what your specialisation (with the exception of parties for young children), you can count on working at least some evenings as you coordinate and supervise events. The planning of those events, however, will be done mostly during business hours.

How to calculate fees to charge clients for event planning services

If you’re just starting out in the industry, it’s reasonable to charge less for your planning services while you gain expertise.

How, you may ask, do you calculate fees for your services? Event planners such as Randburg-based Idea Lab price their fees-for-service (the total cost to the client) using a “cost-plus” method.

They contract out the labour; supplies and materials involved in producing an event and charge their clients a service fee of about 15% to 25% of the total cost of the event.

“The actual percentage depends largely on how hungry you are to get the business,” says Peter Panaretos, MD of Idea Lab.

“Also, some clients want to see all the supplier invoices, while others will agree to your cost estimate and pay in accordance with that.”

How to start and run a recognised contest

The first port of call is researching your market, concept and viability. Here are a few guideines:

You will need to do some research:

  • Who the contest serves (ages, sex, other conditions for being contestants)
  • When and where the contest be held
  • What will your contestants gain from entering the contest (scholarship, prizes etc)
  • What will sponsors gain from the event (name recognition as a supporter, logos advertisement, etc?)
  • Decide on the amount needed for entry fees
  • You should have some experience related to these kinds of contests
  • For more guidance on assistance, visit the Research & Preparation section on this website

The First Steps

Trademark Registration

Beauty competitions around the world all have protected themselves and need a set of exclusive rights that apply to the contest. These rights can be licensed through registering a trademark. Registering a trademark is not mandatory.

Having a trademark notifies an individual that you own the idea. It allows you to take court action if someone else tries to infringe on your business.

Protecting your intellectual property is done through the Company Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) in Pretoria.

Related: 4 Legal Mistakes You Could Be Making When Starting Out

You can also contact an attorney to assist you.

Legal Considerations

It is recommended that you seek legal advice to draw up terms and conditions for the contest. You need to cover yourself against indemnity and non-liability.

This means that you are covered against loss or damage arising from acts or omissions on the part of the entrant, have the right to withdraw entries, or to reject any entry.

Terms and conditions include the fact that you can charge entry fees. You need to ensure that the entrants can prove their country of domicile (they are South African) and so on.

Speak to an expert

Before you go ahead speak to experts in the industry. You can contact Wendy Futcher who deals with the Miss SA beauty pageant by sending her an email. She will be able to provide you with more information.

Guidance on Writing Your Business Plan

Once this is done, you need to draft a business plan. For more information on how to write a comprehensive business plan, read Entrepreneur’s guide: How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide.

Where to find more info on starting an event planning company?


  • Behind the Scenes at Special Events: Flowers, Props and Design by Lena Malouf
  • The Business of Event Planning: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Successful Special Events by Judy Allen
  • Dollars and Events: How to Succeed in the Special Events Business by J. Goldblatt and F. Supovitz
  • Events, Fundraising Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and Other Special Events by Judy Allen
  • The International Directory of Event Management by J. Goldblatt and K. S. Nelson
  • Special Events: 21st Century Global Event Management by J. Goldblatt

Books Specific to the SA market

  • Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Event Management: A Professional and Developmental Approach by D Tassiopoulos

Event Planning Software

Summit Event Manager Pro:


Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Start-up Industry Specific

How To Start A Farming Business

Keep these nine points in mind when launching your new farming business.




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Start-up Industry Specific

How Do I Start A Transport Or Logistics Business?

An all in one guide to starting a transport and logistics business.




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Thinking about starting a transport business?

Forecasts indicate that the demand for freight transport will grow in South Africa by between 200% and 250% over the 15 to 20 years.

Some corridors, (high volume transport routes that connect major centres), such as the corridors between Gauteng and Cape Town (which amount to 50% of all corridor transport) will increase even faster.

The scope in the transport and logistics industry is varied – from a one-man show using a small truck to transport goods and offer services, to a fleet of transport vehicles which travel the length and breadth of South Africa’s roads.

Road transportation includes commuter transport from taxis to bus transportation.

It can be a tough industry and there are many threats facing transport businesses but if you get it right, you can build a successful business.

What is covered in this guide:

  1. How to start your transport and logistics business
  2. How to get funding for your transport business
  3. What are the costs involved
  4. Finding customers and getting transport contracts
  5. Getting onto suppliers lists
  6. Buying trucks and employing drivers
  7. What are the regulations and risks
  8. Where to find guidance to start your business.

Ready to get going? Click the arrow button to learn how to start your own transport business.

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Start-up Industry Specific

How Do I Start A Security Company In South Africa?

There are two kinds of security companies, one that sells products and one that sells services or you can combine both.





To start a security service company in South Africa you must register with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (SIRA). There are two kinds of security companies, one that sells products and one that sells services or you can combine both. It is estimated that the private security industry in South Africa employs over 400 000 individuals.

If you’re looking at starting a security guard company in South Africa, the following guide will be able to assist you in the deciding if it’s the right decision for you.

You need a lot of capital

Starting a security business requires a good deal of capital outlay and it’s highly recommended that one should have a background in this field.

Decide what kind of company you want to start

There are two kinds of security companies, one that sells products and one that sells services or you can combine both. Each sector falls under its own regulatory body.

What about area competition?

Greg Margolis is the CEO of NYPD Security, a niche security company that has operated for the last five years in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

“To run your own security service company I think that you have to be well rounded in terms of not just being a good business person, but you also have to be a people person, a marketing person and know a good deal about the business.

“There’s tough competition, but I love what I do and wouldn’t sell my business even if I was offered triple what its worth. I am passionate about what I do”, says Margolis.

Starting a Security Services Business

To start a security service company in South Africa you must register with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). This includes paying a registration fee of R2 280 and writing an exam. Once you have passed the exam, proved that you do not have a criminal record, SIRA will conduct an inspection to establish whether or not your business meets the infrastructure requirements. A further fee of R1 710 is charged for the assessment. Each year the business is re-accessed which costs a further R500 plus the annual renewal fee or R520.

The following documentation is required for registration:

  1. An authenticated copy of the CM1, CM2, CM27, CM29, CM31 and CM 46 (apply at Registrar of Companies or Attorneys), if the applicant is a company;
  2. An authenticated copy of the Partnership Agreement if the applicant is a partnership;
  3. An authenticated copy of the trust deed and the letter of authorisation to the trustees from the Master of the High Court if the applicant is a business trust

Related:Steps for Setting the Right Prices for Your Security Business

Also required:

  1. The Suretyship form (SIRA 4) to be signed by the natural person who has taken full responsibility of the security business
  2. Every director, member, partner (as the case may be) applying for registration as a security business must have successfully completed, at a training establishment accredited in terms of law, at least, the training courses Grade E to B
  3. An authenticated copy of the Tax Clearance Certificate from the South African Revenue Service (SARS)
  4. An authenticated copy of the VAT Registration Number from SARS.
  5. An authenticated copy of the PAYE number from SARS
  6. An authenticated copy of the COID number (Compensation for Occupational Injuries & Diseases) from the Department of Labour
  7. Sufficient information in writing to enable the Authority to ascertain that the applicant security business meets the requirements with regard to the infrastructure and capacity necessary to render a security service;

This include, inter alia, the following:

  1. Submit a business plan to the Authority including the location and activities
  2. A resolution by the applicant security business stating that it will be able to operate for the next year
  3. The applicant proves that it has an administrative office that is accessible to the inspectors of the SIRA
  4. The applicant must have equipment which is necessary for the management and administration of the security business, e.g. fixed telephone, fax machine, a hard copy or electronic filing system for the orderly keeping of all records and documentation
  5. Show that the affairs of the applicant security business are managed and controlled by appropriately experienced, trained and skilled persons
  6. The applicant security business has at its disposal a sufficient number of registered and appropriately trained and skilled security officers for the rendering of a security service for which it has contracted or is likely to contract
  7. The security officers must be properly controlled and supervised
  8. The applicant security officer has at its disposal sufficient and adequately skilled administrative staff members for the administration of the affairs of the applicant
  9. The business must have has all the necessary equipment, including vehicles,  uniforms, clothing and equipment that must be issued to its security officers
  10. The applicant security business is in lawful possession of the firearms and other weapons that are necessary offer security services in respect of which it has contracted.

Related: Get going with a One Page Business Plan

Landing contracts


The most important thing you can do to start and operate your own business is to develop a good business plan.

It’s invaluable because the business plan forces you to come to terms with your business. Selling the business concept seems to the problem, said Margolis. These are his five tips that will help to get the business going.

“The security industry in South Africa is very competitive. You have to get out there and you have to keep knocking on doors, there isn’t an easy solution”, explains Margolis.

Top Tips

1. Look at your business plan and decide if you have a competitive advantage. If not, work out how you can make the market understand the unique value your small business has to offer.

2. It is important to make yourself known. It isn’t difficult or expensive to increase awareness about the business. Attend ratepayer meetings, spend time at the local police stations, and attend meetings the police have with residents and businesses in the area. This way people get to know you and respect you and half the battle is won. Networking is the way to go.

3. It’s my experience that bigger companies are reluctant to give security contracts to a company that is a one-man show. Make sure that you have a structure in place. Clients need to know if something happens to you, the business will not fall apart, and the services they have paid for and you have agreed to supply, will not cease. Clients need to understand that besides experience, that you are credible and that all the checks and balances are in place. This must be one of the key selling points.

4. Consider taking on a partner. Choose a partner who has the attributes that you lack. The ideal partner would be one with strong links and contacts in the community that you want to work with. Let your partner control the selling side while you handle areas you’re strong in, such as expertise and service delivery. The other option is to employ sales staff.

5. Stay abreast of new trends in the field, and update your skills. This is something that I strongly believe in. You have to be well rounded in terms of not just being a good businessperson, but you also have to be a people person, a marketing and sales manager and know a good deal about the neighbourhoods you work.


Are you new to starting a business? Read 15 Things Every Newbie Needs to Know About Starting a Business

Security products

What are the requirements to start a security product supplier business?

If you are starting a security company that sells electronic alarm systems and other security products it’s wise to become a member of SAIDSA in order to provide your business with the credibility it needs to be taken seriously by the public and security service providers.

The objective of SAIDSA is to upgrade the quality and standards of electronic security and to protect the public from unscrupulous, “fly-by-night” operators. When a security system is purchased, an ongoing relationship is entered into between the purchaser and the security service company concerned.

The security service product supplier must have the infrastructure and the required expertise to support the relationship continuously.

Security Sector Regulatory Bodies

The security industry has established a number of bodies to regulate itself. Membership in these bodies is voluntary. They include:

Ready to get going? Here’s 10 Steps to Start Your Business For Free (Almost)

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